The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has announced the appointment of Sir John Jenkins as Executive Director of the IISS–Middle East. The current British ambassador to Saudi Arabia will take up the post in Bahrain at the end of January.
Sir John has served as ambassador of the United Kingdom to Iraq, Syria and Libya. He has also served in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, as Consul-General in Jerusalem and in a number of other postings including as ambassador to Burma. According to a press release from the institute, the ambassador holds a BA and PhD from Cambridge University and so takes to his new role both first-class academic credentials and "unrivalled practical understanding" of the current geopolitical and geo-economic trends in the region.
In April this year the British government announced that it was carrying out an "urgent investigation" into whether the Muslim Brotherhood is "plotting extremism" in the UK. Described at the time as "one of the foremost Arabists in the Foreign Office" and an "elite" diplomatic official, Sir John Jenkins was assigned to conduct the "thorough probe". His report has yet to be released by the government. Critics claim that the government ordered the investigation under pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Middle East governments hostile to the popular Islamist movement.
"We are very pleased that Sir John is joining the IISS in Bahrain to lead our growing Middle East office," said Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of the IISS. "Sir John's extensive diplomatic experience, deep knowledge of the region, ease with the Arabic language and powerful network of relationships throughout the Middle East and North Africa make him the ideal person to drive the growth of the IISS–Middle East office."
From the start of 2015, added Chipman, the IISS-Middle East office will boost substantially its policy-relevant research work on Middle East security and economic issues. "The IISS will be deepening its engagement with the governments of the region while working closely with the private sector. Throughout the year, the Institute will work to dramatically strengthen the Manama Dialogue process and ensure that in 2015 it serves as a major lynchpin of regional defence diplomacy. Sir John will be a great asset to the IISS as we make these large steps forward in our Middle East activities, connecting them closely to our work in other regions."
Sir John Jenkins himself said that he is "delighted" to be joining IISS. "It is a hugely impressive and dynamic organisation and gives me a chance not just to continue to live and work in the Arab World, about which I care deeply, but also to help shape international responses to the urgent diplomatic, economic and national-security challenges that the region faces. How we deal with them will define our shared future."
The diplomat stressed that he wants IISS in the Middle East to be the most authoritative source of real-world answers relevant to policymakers, "drawing on as wide a range of experience, knowledge, expertise and personal relationships as possible."
The IISS advertises itself as the world's leading authority on political–military conflict and has offices in London, Singapore, Bahrain and Washington, claiming to be the primary source of "accurate, objective information" on international strategic issues. "The range of publications, its convening power, and the Institute's strong international policy perspective make the IISS a key actor in the global strategic and geo-economic debate," said the institute's press release.